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Rice confirmation hearings set for January

Lugar: White House urged delay until new Congress convenes

President Bush chose trusted adviser Condoleezza Rice to be the next secretary of state.
White House
Condoleezza Rice

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Confirmation hearings for Condoleezza Rice to be named secretary of state will take place after the new Congress convenes in January, a Senate committee chairman said Sunday.

At the urging of the White House, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will not hold hearings in December for Rice, the national security adviser and a trusted confidante of President Bush.

"I had suggested a very early time," Indiana Republican Richard Lugar said on "Fox News Sunday."

"The White House suggested that that would not be appropriate -- that is, in December. So we'll not be having hearings in December. But we'll have hearings as soon as possible in January."

The White House issued a statement saying, "It was our understanding that the Senate could not have gone through the whole confirmation process in December. We look forward to our nominees going through the confirmation process when the new Congress convenes in January."

Rice's nomination is among a host of personnel changes in the Bush administration.

The weeks after the November 2 election saw the resignations of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. (Full story)

Bush nominated Rice on November 16 to replace Powell, who said he would remain in the post until his replacement is confirmed.

"The secretary of state is America's face to the world, and in Dr. Rice the world will see the strength, the grace and the decency of our country," Bush said at the time.

The president said Rice's deputy Steve Hadley would succeed her as national security adviser.

Lugar predicted "strong support" for Rice in the Senate, according to the Reuters news agency.

If confirmed, Rice would be the first black woman, and only the second woman ever, chosen as the nation's top diplomat.

Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.

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